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The Craft of Photography

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Hello, this is Phillip Periman in Amarillo for the HPPR reader’s book club.
Today I am recommending for summer reading a memoir Modern Instances: the Craft of Photography. A Memoir by Stephen Shore. Published by Mack, 2022.

Hello, this is Phillip Periman in Amarillo for the HPPR reader’s book club.

Today I am recommending for summer reading a memoir Modern Instances: the Craft of Photography. A Memoir by Stephen Shore. Published by Mack, 2022.

Once my wife and I were in Paris at the same time a photography show at Musée Jeu de Paume featured the work of Stephen Shore, an American photographer who came to fame in the 1970s by having the first solo show of a living photographer at the NYC Metropolitan Museum. After that early success in black & white he became one of the pioneers along with William Eggleston in the use of color photography as a tool for fine artwork---previously with perhaps the exception of Eliot Porter's dye transfer color landscapes of the southwest---all fine art photography had been only in black and white.

Interested, I plunged right into the exhibition. Much to my surprise approximately twenty-five percent of the pictures had been made in our region. There were landscapes, portraits, and conceptual work all based on people and places in the high plains. For example, there was a straight on 8 by 10 large format photograph of a drive-in movie theater in Amarillo. The name emblazoned on the top of the outside wall of the screen was "Sunset". Was this picture taken at sunset or was this the definition of sunset, such are the quirky questions of conceptual photography. This photograph is in the collection of the Amarillo Museum of Art.

Perhaps, I should not have been so surprised. I first met Stephen Shore in the early 1990s when we were both students in a class at the Anderson Art Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. We were both there to learn how to use the computer and the digital printer to make color photographs. In the ensuing thirty years this technology has come to dominate photography especially with the wildly popular camera-smart phones.

Stephen informed me that he had spent several summers in Amarillo in the 1970s and still had many friends there from those days. We also bonded over fly fishing with bamboo rods.

Now 74 Shore has published a memoir of his life in photography. His photography life started at age six when an uncle gave him a Kodak darkroom set-up. Three years later he had a 35mm camera, and at age 14 he sold three pictures to the Museum of Modern Art because their curator and famous early American photographer, Edward Steichen had been so impressed with Shore's work. Two years later Stephen met Andy Warhol and began hanging out and photographing around the factory, the people, and that peculiar art scene. The images he made then formed the basis on his Metropolitan show. All this achievement without finishing high school nor attending college.

Modern Instances is a memoir of how over the next fifty years Shore managed to grow, to mature, and to remain creative as an artist. He describes the many facets of his self-education from grand opera to Shakespeare to Brecht and The Three Penny Opera. There is more than one anecdote of Shore's encounters with famous photographers, like Ansel Adams who confessed to Stephen that most of his later work was repetitive as opposed to creative. Shore worked hard at many junctures in his life and work to change, to avoid doing the same old thing once again. He illustrates this with examples from his work showing how he moved from one format for example the view camera, to the smart Phone. I was most impressed by Shore's recent work which has been done with drone-based photography---a new way of looking at the world.

I think the summer reader will find much in Shore's book, "Modern Instances" that delights, enlightens, and intrigues anyone with an interest in how a creative artist finds a way to stay fresh, innovative, and interesting.

This has been Phillip Periman for the HPPR Reader’s Book Club.

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Summer Read 2022: Summer Reading List 2022 Summer ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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